WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) — A Jersey shore boardwalk amusement park that closed after an 11-year-old girl tumbled from a moving Ferris wheel to her death reopened Saturday while investigators tried to figure out what caused her fall.
A spokeswoman for Morey’s Mariner’s Landing Pier in Wildwood said the park reopened at noon. It was closed Friday night, hours after the death of 11-year-old Abiah Jones.
Jones was with her classmates from Pleasant Tech Academy when she plunged about 100 feet, from near the top of the ride, and landed in the passenger loading area, police and amusement park officials said. She was pronounced dead at a hospital about 45 minutes later.
The popular park was packed with children attending a special school-related promotional event called Education Extravaganza.
Police took photographs of passenger carts on the Ferris wheel, part of which was covered in white sheets, and were looking for witnesses to the girl’s fall.
The Ferris wheel was to remain closed until the cause of the girl’s fall is determined. It didn’t appear to be mechanical, police and Morey’s said.
The 156-foot-tall Ferris wheel is among several rides at the park. It was built in 1985 and most recently passed an inspection March 17, said the state Department of Community Affairs, which was examining it and investigating the girl’s death.
Abiah’s death was the first of a patron in the history of the Morey’s organization, which has owned amusement parks at the Jersey shore since 1969, president Will Morey said.
“I’d like to say how sorry we are for the incident that occurred here,” Morey said.
It appears Abiah, of Pleasantville, was alone in one of the ride’s passenger gondolas, which is secured with a double latch, Morey said. The door of the gondola opens inward, making it difficult to climb out of, he said.
The spot where the girl’s body landed in the passenger loading area of the ride led authorities to believe she fell from near the top of the ride because that’s the trajectory she would have followed as she fell, Morey said.
According to a 2010 report from the National Safety Council, the estimated number of amusement ride-related injuries on fixed-site rides nationwide was 1,086, or 0.6 per million patron rides.
The odds of being seriously injured at one of the United States’ 400 fixed-site amusement parks are 1 in 9 million, said a spokeswoman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.
“Events like this are extremely rare, and safety is the No. 1 priority for the amusement park industry,” association spokeswoman Colleen Mangone said.
About 280 million guests visit those theme parks each year, taking 1.7 billion rides, she said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)